Two Yazidi children maimed in fighting in northern Iraq arrived Wednesday in Minneapolis for treatment at the Shriners Hospitals for Children.
A far-flung group of international and local nonprofit groups and private partners organized the humanitarian effort to help the children who have lost limbs. They include Minnesota International Medicine, the Shriners, Minnesota-Uruguay Partners of the Americas, the Center for Victims of Torture and United Kingdom-based Road to Peace.
“All the people involved are from four different religions and seven different countries. It shows you when there is a big heart, things can get done,” said Ricardo Bonner of Edina, a member of Minnesota-Uruguay Partners who helped coordinate the trip.
The two Yazidi children in the Twin Cities are a 10-year-old boy with a partly amputated leg and a 13-year-old boy who lost part of an arm, said Pilar de Posadas, a Los Angeles filmmaker and television producer who helped make arrangements for the boys. One was accompanied by his dad and the other by an aunt.
“The children looked excited. They are thrilled to be here,” said Barry Friedman, chief of clinical global services at Minnesota International Medicine, who met the boys at the airport.
They are among the thousands of Yazidi people living in refugee camps in northern Iraq. The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has brutally targeted the Yazidi, who practice their own unique religion, in an effort to “purify” Iraq and surrounding territory of non-Islamic influences.
A United Nations-mandated human rights inquiry has labeled the killing and enslavement as genocide.
The goal is to help the most severely injured Yazidi children receive care at the network of Shriners Hospitals in the U.S. and hospitals in the U.K. The two boys had been treated at refugee medical centers in Iraq and Syria, De Posadas said.
“They do as much as they can, but they are incapable of doing reconstruction or prosthetics,” she said.
The seeds of the humanitarian mission were planted when De Posadas asked U.K. humanitarian Sally Becker if she could make a movie about Becker’s life. Becker, founder of the international nonprofit Road to Peace, agreed to the film but asked De Posadas to help her with the ballooning crisis of injured Yazidi children.
De Posadas called Bonner, an old friend, who helped recruit the Shriners, Minnesota International Medicine and Minnesota-Uruguay Partners.
Shriners International opened its first hospital in Shreveport, La., in 1922, offering specialized pediatric care to all children regardless of means. The Shriners hospital in the Twin Cities opened in 1923, specializing in treating children with orthopedic conditions.
“You can make the world better bit by bit. It doesn’t matter what you believe in,” De Posadas said.